Home Country – It’s a very long way to Nome

People - Slim Randles
Published Friday, February 1, 2019
by Slim Randles

This coming Saturday, I'll probably be right here in New Mexico. Well, most of me will. But my heart and my wishes and part of my soul will be many miles from here, up in Anchorage, Alaska. 

Anchorage. First Saturday in March. Dog trucks with freight sleds lashed to the top of the dog boxes.

For 46 years now, this has meant only one thing to me: the start of the Iditarod Dogsled Race. A thousand miles. Anchorage to Nome. There will be screaming dogs, lunging into their harnesses at the start line. One team released every two minutes to prevent what would certainly be a world-record dog fight. Six or eight men and women holding the dogs and the sled. Two minutes. Go!

And in a flash the team and the musher are gone, silently, rounding a corner and being lovingly consumed by the birch forest.

In 1973, for the first race, I was lucky enough to be one of those mushers. I didn't finish, sorry to say. Crushed an ankle about 300 miles in. But I know what it's like for those men and women out on the trail with those dogs, and the snow and cold, and sometimes the wind. And getting that evening fire going, and melting snow for dog water, and heating up a frozen piroshkifor your own dinner.

And then sinking into sleep, wondering what tomorrow will bring.

That part, you see, hasn't changed in 46 years. In fact, that part hasn't changed since the gold rush of around 1910 when the trail was first established. 

So, I may still be here in mesa country on Saturday, but I'll also be there, with the men and women and dogs, hearing the roaring of the crowds and then the hush of a thousand-plus miles of silent, frozen country.

Packed trails and healthy dogs, mushers. That's the wish from Seven-Dog Slim. It's a very long way to Nome. 

Brought to you by Strange Tales of Alaska by Slim Randles. Available at amazon.com.

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